Reflections on the Renaissance Globe Project

Christopher Parkin pins an object image onto the MHS globe

Christopher Parkin pins an image onto the MHS globe

When I first put together the proposal for ‘The Renaissance Globe Project’, it seemed altogether too ambitious for such a small team with limited resources to deliver. But the temptation to have a go was too great and, with the prospect of partnership and the use of an expanding pool of community volunteers looking for interesting opportunities, we decided to put in a bid to the HLF for funding to support a partnership project. In March we learned that the bid had been successful and were awarded a grant of £15.5k to run the project. The compressed timescale created even more of a challenge given the proposal to include secondary schools in the project!

Over the summer period, the Renaissance Globe Project delivered a varied programme of over 20 family events across all four partner museums involving over 1100 children and 1300 adults. These events engaged children and adults in themed activities discovering the collections and crafting the globes. The globes came together in a final exhibition at the Museum of History of Science in October-November entitled ‘Re-imaging the Globe’. The six ‘Globe Maker’ workshops for children and adults also proved popular, involving 40 children and 20 adults in model-making and the history of the globe.

Over the summer term the Globe Project delivered workshops to 10 secondary schools involving approximately 270 secondary school pupils. Most of these were delivered at the Museum of History of Science and included activities such as model globe-making, historical enquiry into the period of the Great Age of Discovery, and hands-on investigation of navigational instruments. A workshop at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History focused on Darwin’s voyage and evidence for biodiversity. One community group of 10 adults with learning disabilities and their helpers had a very rewarding experience taking part in a globe-making workshop at the Museum of the History of Science.

The Project generated a tremendous response from community volunteers initially recruiting 20 volunteers to help with the delivery of the events. Dedicated teams of four volunteers were established for each globe to carry out ‘behind the scenes’ preparation between events, and to co-curate the programme of activities and globe themes. Over the period of delivery a total of 26 volunteers were involved contributing over 200 hours of volunteer work. Volunteers enjoyed a celebration event at the Museum which was attended by the retiring Director, Professor Jim Bennett, and other staff who had been involved in the project including three of the cohort of four HLF ‘Skills for the Future’ trainee education officers.

We felt that one of the unique features of the project was the opportunity it gave volunteers to be involved in an extended experience of participation. There was lots of positive feedback about this; one volunteer said, “It gives the volunteers (and participants) a sense that they are building something. It also makes the museum experience more than simply learning and taking something from the museum – it gives the visitors (and volunteers) a chance to feel as though they are giving back.”

by Christopher Parkin, Education Officer